5 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

5 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

Before I got married and had kids, food and nutrition weren’t nearly as much of a focus in my life as they are now.

As a single woman living alone, I relied on quick and easy meals like scrambled eggs or pasta and broccoli.

If I cooked, it would have been something like a piece of pan-seared salmon but snack foods like hummus, crackers and cheese sticks for dinner were just as good—seriously!

Of course, Chinese take-out was always an easy option too.

When I met my husband however, I became more interested and inspired to cook healthy, delicious meals.

Since he works in the restaurant business and even worked as personal chef, he taught me how to use a knife and cutting board, how to roast a whole chicken and how to prepare a real meal from scratch.

Although cooking techniques like blanching still throw me off and I’m not all that adventurous with herbs and spices, I can hold my own in the kitchen today.

Of course, having kids has also been a driving force behind my motivation to cook. Between making homemade baby food, preparing their school lunches and cooking dinner almost every night, I’m always in the kitchen.

But let’s be honest: cooking takes time—time I don’t always have.

So over the years, I’ve found some amazing kitchen gadgets that have helped make meal prep easier, helped me pull together meals faster, and saved my sanity.

Here are 5 kitchen gadgets I can’t live without.

1. Vitamix

I recently received the Vitamix as a Christmas present from my husband and after getting over the initial sticker shock, I was hooked.

Unlike the small blender I was using, I love that you can put several types of vegetables for a smoothie in the Vitamix and it blends up everything into a super-smooth consistency, much like a juicer, but the fiber is still there.

The other great thing about the Vitamix is that it isn’t just for smoothies. You can use it to make homemade nut butters, dips and spreads, soups, frozen desserts, flours and dough and non-dairy milk.

2. Solid Wood Chopping Bowl

This solid wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna knife is hands down, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets and a tool I use every day.

There’s nothing more delicious than a chopped salad and with this bowl, you don’t have to drop $10 at your favorite lunch spot to get it. I simply add salad greens, onions, carrots and avocado and chop everything up in the bowl. I add dressing and a protein and lunch is ready in minutes.

If you want your kids to eat more vegetables, it’s also a great tool to get them in the kitchen to prepare—and get excited about—healthy meals too.

3. Pampered Chef Pan

Pampered Chef is known for their stoneware and for good reason.

I use this Pampered Chef pan most days of the week to roast vegetables and make sweet potato fries, and meatballs. Everything you make with the pan is evenly cooked, crispy on the outside but moist on the inside and bursting with flavor.

It’s also a breeze to clean and doesn’t require any soaking or scrubbing.

4. Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner


If there’s one kitchen gadget that ensures you’ll always have a quick and easy meal on hand, it’s the Oxo good grips salad spinner.

It’s a totally old-school kitchen gadget but it’s a must-have to wash salad quickly and keep it fresh all week long.

5. Cuisinart Stand Mixer

Another classic tool, the Cuisinart Stand Mixer is a kitchen gadget I’ve had since I got married and it’s become quite useful throughout the years.

If you love baking as much as I do, the mixer is a must-have.

Although it’s not in my regular daily rotation, it’s come in handy for making breads, my nana’s famous Christmas cheesecake and my kids’ birthday cakes.

What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets? Leave me a comment! 

5 Winter Superfoods for Kids

5 Winter Superfoods for Kids

The winter season lends itself to a wide variety of brightly colored vegetables bursting with flavor and packed with nutrition for your kids.

With more time indoors, winter is also one of the best times of year to experiment with new recipes, cook with your kids and give them plenty of opportunities to try—and even learn to love—new foods.

These 5 winter superfoods are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, can be incorporated into most dishes and are so delicious your kids will ask for seconds.

1. Cabbage

Green leafy vegetables are some of the healthiest vegetables you can feed your kids, and cabbage (white or red) falls into this category.

Cabbage is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C, K, B6 and folate.

Roast cabbage, sauté it with some coconut oil, or add it to your favorite stir-fry for a healthy and delicious meal.

2. Sweet potatoes

Rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, sweet potatoes also contain 3 grams of fiber and 284 percent daily value of vitamin A per 1/2 cup—making them one of the best winter superfoods for kids.

Roast sweet potatoes, mashed them or slice and top with scrambled eggs for a quick and healthy breakfast.

3. Beets

I know what you’re thinking: there’s no way my kid will eat beets. Beets have been a tough sell for my kids too, but it’s still worth a try

A good source of iron, vitamin C, magnesium, folate and potassium, beets are also high in fiber.

I don’t advocate sneaking vegetables for the sake of getting your kids to eat them, but there are some ways to make beets more palatable.

Try making your own roasted beet hummus like this one from Minimalist Baker.

Or roast beets with other root vegetables for a filling and delicious side dish or incorporate them into a fresh green juice.

4. Carrots

Most kids like carrots—a good thing since they’re so nutritious.

Carrots are high in vitamins A, B6 and folate, C and K, as well as iron and potassium. They’re also a great source of fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams.

Carrots are also a really versatile vegetable. Serve raw baby carrots with hummus or black bean dip, roast them with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, or add pureed carrots into soups, stews or make a carrot soufflé.

5. Parsnips

Sweet, savory and filling, parsnips are one of the quintessential winter superfoods for kids.

Parsnips are a good source of potassium and vitamins C, K and folate. With 5 grams of fiber in a 1/2 cup, they’ll satisfy your kid’s hunger and may cure constipation.

Roast parsnips, sauté them with some grass-fed butter and nutmeg or incorporate them into your favorite bread recipe for extra fiber and flavor.

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

I love baking anytime of year, but during the holidays, it’s even more special.

As a child, I have fond memories of making chocolate-coconut Christmas cookies and these Betty Crocker candy cane cookies with my own mom.

Now that I have my own kids, I love holiday baking even more.

This year, my daughters and I will make Skinnytaste’s pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and my grandmother’s famous cheesecake for Christmas (it’s a secret recipe). We’ll also make coconut macaroons and a few varieties of cookies for their teachers, bus drivers and volunteers at our church.

During the holiday season, it’s inevitable that your kids (and you!) will eat sugar.

The great thing about baking however, is that you can often make simple swaps and substitutions in your recipes that cut down on the calories, fat and sugar, add some nutrition and don’t change the taste much at all.

Here, read on for 7 healthy holiday baking tips to make your recipes even sweeter.

1. Upgrade your flour

White, refined flour lack nutrition and fiber and spikes your blood sugar, so I tend to avoid using it.

Since my kids eat a mainly gluten-free diet anyway, I usually swap all-purpose flour for gluten-free oats that I grind up in the food processor.

True, sometimes only all-purpose flour will do, but when it’s not going to change the taste or the texture, try oat flour, coconut flour or almond flour, all of which have more fiber.

Almond flour, in particular, is a good source of protein—7 grams in about a cup—, as well as vitamin E and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

In some recipes, you can swap in the same amount of flour, but others may require a different ratio of liquids. Try to find recipes that call for the specific type of flour you want to use or find out how to adjust your ingredients.

2. Cut down on sugar

 

Sweeteners like coconut sugar may have a lower glycemic index than table sugar, and less of an impact on blood sugar, but it’s not as low as say, broccoli.

What’s more, just because these sugars and others like honey are naturally derived, they’re still considered added sugars and should be limited in our diets.

Of course, the holidays are a special occasion so I don’t see a big deal in indulging in sweets. But if you’re planning back-to-back holiday events or you’re looking to cut back, you can cut the amount of sugar in a recipe by a 1/4 or a 1/3, which probably won’t make that much of a difference in the taste.

While pies, cakes and cookies usually need sugar to taste sweet, adding dried fruit like dates, raisins or cranberries to bread or muffin recipes can be a healthy, delicious substitute for sugar.

3. Make mini versions of your holiday favorites

 

One of the best ways to keep portions healthy for everyone is to create miniature cookies and desserts. Try mini muffin tins, mini loaf pans or ramekins for smaller, healthier holiday treats.

4. Mix in vegetables

Pureed or grated, vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets, squash and pumpkin all add fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants to a holiday dessert otherwise devoid of nutrition.

Vegetables also add flavor and moistness to breads, muffins and cakes.

5. Substitute avocado for butter or oil

While you’re adding vegetables, try fruit too—with an avocado.

Avocado is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, especially because it’s high in fiber, has 20 vitamins and minerals and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

Avocado is also an easy, 1 to 1 substitute for butter or oil. I’ve found that it often makes cookies or muffins have a greenish hue, which isn’t a big deal if you’re enjoying them at home, but it might be if you’re giving them as gifts or bringing them to a party.

6. Add chia seeds

High in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, iron and calcium, chia seeds are a super food.

When you’re baking, chia seeds can easily be incorporated into cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes and cakes. They don’t change the taste or the texture but you may have to add additional liquid ingredients because they can thicken up the batter.

7. Swap cream for Greek yogurt

When a recipe calls for cream cheese, sour cream or buttermilk, try using full fat or low fat Greek yogurt which is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12 and potassium and helps to cut down on some of the calories and saturated fat.

7 Healthy Kids’ Birthday Treats That Aren’t Cupcakes

7 Healthy Kids’ Birthday Treats That Aren’t Cupcakes

In recent years, an increasing amount of schools in the U.S. have banned cake, cupcakes and other treats for kids’ birthday celebrations all in an effort to curb childhood obesity and keep kids with food allergies safe.

If your child’s school allows you to bring in treats however, why not forget the cupcakes and bring in something healthier and more interesting?

Not only will you feel good about serving up a treat with some nutrition, but it’s a great way to show your kids and their classmates that healthy food can be amazingly delicious.

Here, check out 7 healthy kids’ birthday treats from my fellow bloggers that are healthy and delicious—and so much better than cupcakes.

1. Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries

When one of my daughters celebrated her birthday in preschool, I didn’t feel good about serving up cupcakes or another dessert at 10am in the morning, so my husband and I whipped up a batch of chocolate covered strawberries instead.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber, and when they’re matched with chocolate, they have just the right amount of sweetness kids crave.

This recipe for Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries from Jamielyn Nye, founder of I Heart Naptime, are healthy and delicious and with a drizzle of white chocolate, they’re extra special for kids’ birthday parties.

2. Fruit Wands

I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious, several years back. In fact, her insight about why parents should avoid sneaking vegetables into meals was part of my inspiration for starting this blog.

So when I came across her recipe for Fruit Wands, I couldn’t wait to share it.

With seven different types of fruit, these treats are bursting with nutrition and color. They also give kids plenty of choices—which is one way to encourage healthy eating—and are a fun, creative way to serve up fruit. I also love that they’re safe for kids with food allergies—a win-win for kids and schools.

3. Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn Mix

Whole grains like those found in popcorn give kids plenty of fiber which satisfies their hunger and prevents spikes in blood sugar.

Plain popcorn is one option for kids’ birthday treats, but this Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn Mix from Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food is a bit more special and the perfect mix of salty and sweet.

With cashews, which add protein and fiber, and cinnamon and ginger for natural flavor, this treat is healthy, delicious and easy to pull together.

4. Donut-Shaped Apple Snacks

A great source of vitamin C and filling fiber, apples are also a rich source of quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid that studies suggest may boost brain health.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Gina Homolka’s Skinnytaste since I lost weight years ago on WW, so I was thrilled to find these Donut-Shaped Apple Snacks on her blog. They’re festive, super easy to make and a fun way to teach your kids how to make healthy, delicious fare.

 

5. 3-Ingredient Chocolate Avocado Pudding

 
An excellent source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and K, and folate as well as healthy fats, avocado is one of the best superfoods you can feed your kids.

Avocado also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

Another one of my favorite bloggers, Megan Gilmore, founder of Detoxinista, offers up this easy, 3-Ingredient Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Without any added sugar but plenty of nutrition and flavor, it’s one of the best kids’ birthday treats you can serve and it only takes 5 minutes to make.

6. Yogurt Parfait For Kids

Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

If you know how to choose a healthy kids’ yogurt, it can also be a healthy treat for your child’s celebration.

That’s why I like this Yogurt Parfait for Kids recipe from Jodi Danen, founder of Create Kids’ Club. With plain yogurt, fresh berries and granola, you have a healthy, fiber-filled, and delicious treat that can be pulled together in no time.

7. Easy 5 Ingredient Vegan Caramel Dip

 
Kids love to dip just about anything and this Easy 5 Ingredient Vegan Caramel Dip from Kiran Dodeja Smith, founder of Easy Real Food, is the perfect non-cupcake treat for school birthday celebrations.

With plenty of plant-based protein that satiates kids’ hunger, and no refined sugars, this dip is satisfying, sweet and super easy.

8 Tips For Teaching Kids How To Cook

8 Tips For Teaching Kids How To Cook

One of the best ways to get your kids to eat healthy now and throughout their lives is to teach them how to cook healthy meals.

My kids have been helping me in the kitchen since they were toddlers and we all have a lot of fun cooking and baking together.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I’ve got the cooking chops of Martha Stewart and my kids are little chefs who follow suite, however.


Not even close.

 

Most of the time when we cook together, I try to strike a balance between teaching and keeping them busy and avoiding messes, mishaps and meltdowns.

Last week, I even let my 5-year-old use a vegetable peeler and pairing knife to prepare carrots for a large family dinner.

I nearly had a heart attack worrying that she might lose a finger, but I showed her how to cut away from her fingers and I watched carefully.

Benefits of Cooking With Kids

 

When kids learn how to cook, it’s an invaluable—and one might argue—essential life skill.

Kids not only learn how to prepare meals, they also learn about nutrition, portion control, math, science, and food safety.

Cooking improves their literacy, critical thinking and fine motor skills.

Studies show people who cook at home eat healthier, eat less, and have better control of their weight, so it’s also a healthy habit to teach now.

 

Need more reasons? Check out  5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids.

Tips To Teach Kids How To Cook

Cooking with your kids can be a fun, valuable activity for the whole family. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it.

1. Review the safety rules

Before you can teach your kids how to chop vegetables, sauté garlic and beat eggs, they’ll need to learn some food and kitchen safety rules.

Make sure they wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before prepping food and after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.

Teach them to avoid eating uncooked food (licking the spatula counts!) and putting their hands in their mouth.

Lastly, teach your kids to be careful around knives and kitchen appliances with sharp blades, use caution around a hot stove and oven, use oven mitts and how to hold a pot handle.

2. Keep it age appropriate

When teaching your kids how to cook, think about their age and maturity level.

Three to 5-year-olds can help pour and mix, turn on the food processor, wash produce and add seasonings, while older kids can break eggs, peel and chop vegetables, measure ingredients, read recipes, stir food on the stovetop and put food in the oven.

3. Let them choose

When kids feel empowered to make their own food choices, they’re more likely to eat healthy.

When you’re not in a rush to get dinner on the table and you have time to experiment, let your kids pick out a new recipe or decide on the type of meal they’d like to make.

Make a list of ingredients and go grocery shopping together, which teaches them all the steps that are required to pull a meal together.

4. Make it more fun

Professional chefs are creative, know how to experiment, and problem solve in the kitchen—skills you can teach your kids no matter how inexperienced you think you are.

Try new recipes, swap an ingredient, substitute a spice or change the cooking method. Your kids may surprise you with new ideas too.

5. Clean up together

Teaching kids how to properly clean the kitchen is just as important as teaching them how to cook.

Little kids can (gently!) put bowls and cooking utensils in the sink, while older kids can load the dishwasher, wash and dry pots and pans and clean and disinfect cutting boards and countertops.

6. Get some cool gear

You can make cooking even more fun but buying your kids their own aprons, kid-sized cutting boards and utensils or a colorful stool to reach the counter.

7. Spread the joy

Cooking will bring your family together but it’s also a good opportunity to teach your kids about contributing to a family meal and helping others.

Let them help you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, bake treats for the school fundraiser or cook a meal for a friend in need.

They’ll feel so proud that they had a hand in making the meal and making others happy. Of course, the memories you’ll make will be priceless.

8. Let it go

 

Cooking with your kids will definitely take longer than when you cook alone and you’re guaranteed a mess afterwards.

I’ll admit, this is a #momfail for me. I like to clean the kitchen as I go, and when something spills, I sigh.

When I relax however, and don’t make a big deal when soup splatters or some flour spills on the floor, it’s a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.